Brendan Benson has been working on his forthcoming album Dear Life — whose track “Richest Man” is premiering exclusively below — for quite a few years. And he’s happy its life-affirming tone will counter the gloomy environment it’s coming into on April 24.
“I feel like it’s talking a lot about life and death and family and kind of where I am at this time in my life,” Benson tells Billboard. “I’m 49 years old. Life has taken on new meaning with this family (a wife and two young children) and it was actually really fun to sing about. I always thought that would be kind of a boring topic, but it’s what I have and I can’t fake it. It might not be a young person’s record. Maybe young people can’t relate to this, but I kinda don’t care anymore — and it’s really nice not to care.”
“Richest Man,” a buoyant and brassy power pop love song, is a case in point. “It started out as kind of a joke — not like a ha-ha joke, but the lyrics came really fast and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll change these later’,” Benson recalls. “They felt a little too literal and, like, walking out on a limb with it. But in the end I left it; It’s exactly the way I feel, so why not?”
Dear Life, out April 24, is Benson’s first solo album in seven years and has been in motion since not long after You Were Right came out during 2013. One delay was due to a family move in Nashville that led to a new home studio set-up. Then, Benson notes, “the Raconteurs hotline rang” for the all-star group’s 2019 album Help Us Stranger, whose “Only Child” was originally slated for Dear Life. “I couldn’t pass it up,” Benson says of the Raconteurs reunion. “It’s really great money, and it’s way more fun to do that than my stuff.” But he doesn’t feel that Dear Life has suffered at all for the wait.
“My record kind of remains untouched,” says Benson, who produced and played all the instruments on Dear Life save for the track “Baby Eyes.” He adds that Michael Ilbert, who mixed the album, “really saved it, man. He made it sound so good. I don’t always do the best job recording or documenting what track is what, but he made it sound really coherent. My songs may sound different from one another in various ways, but they all still sound very big and in your face, which is what I wanted.”
Beyond Dear Life‘s release, Benson is, like everyone else, in limbo. He was slated to performing during South By Southwest and then start a tour April 26, backed by Chicago’s Rookie. During the interim he’s been hosting live-streamed Boy in A Bubble performances on social media at 5:20 p.m. ET daily and using the break to spend time with his family and also work on more new material. And he’s hoping that after a successful 2019 the Raconteurs won’t take another 11 years to roll out its next album.
“About the extent of it was, ‘Let’s not wait another 11 years,'” Benson says. “We said something like ‘a couple years, a few years.’ But it’s the Raconteurs; We like to kind of keep it spontaneous. It’s better that way for everybody. But it was a perfect way to get me stoked about performing again and really get me stoked to put out this new album and go out myself — whenever I get to do that, at least.”